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Measuring Social Media Engagement

Alexei asks, "What are the most essential steps to analyzing social media data with ‘engagement’ in mind?"

The steps for measuring social media engagement are the same as any other digital marketing metric, and follow the 3 Whats:

  • What happened?
  • So what?
  • Now what?

Let’s dig into each of these steps.

Social Media Engagement: What Happened?

Our first step in dealing with social media data has to be around extracting data to understand what happened. Based on the channels and platforms we’re dealing with, that could be as simple as exporting the data straight from our social platform’s analytics to as complex as having to write custom code to extract individual post-level data.

For example, with a platform like Agorapulse, I can export all my engagement data as a simple CSV file for analysis. For this example, I’ll focus on Twitter, but this works for any channel managed in the platform:


And to focus on a meaningful objective, let’s export traffic data to my website from Twitter as a source in Google Analytics:

Google Analytics Twitter traffic

We’ve now got the basic ingredients for doing our analysis. Let’s take a quick peek first:

Simple line chart of Twitter engagement data

We’ve got some messy but usable data here.

Social Media Engagement: So What?

Here’s the key question. We’ve got Twitter engagement data, and we see the different types of engagement. So what? Does engagement mean anything, or is it just a bunch of noise? The answer to this question is something we find with basic correlation analysis. We’ll benchmark all our engagement variables against site traffic from Twitter. Does anything I do with Twitter from an engagement perspective result in traffic to my site?

Let’s take a look:

Spearman correlation

What we find, using a Spearman correlation, is that there are three variables that have weak but detectable correlations to Twitter traffic: replies made to me, replies I made, and brand mentions.

The variables that we would expect to yield traffic – like new followers, or published links, or likes – don’t. None of these have a statistically significant correlation in this example to traffic from Twitter to my website.

It’s important to point out that this is not the answer. This is a hypothesis we need to test, and it’s unique to my data. Your data will inevitably be different, so you can’t take this answer and run with it on your own Twitter account. You must run this analysis with your own data.

Social Media Engagement: Now What?

So we’ve answered the key "so what" question: does any of our engagement data matter? We know three variables do. The question we must ask next is, what do we do about it? Of those variables, I have control over only one of them. I can’t control how often people reply to me. I can’t control how often people mention me. But I can absolutely control how often I reply to people, how often I jump into relevant conversations and participate.

If unpaid traffic from Twitter was a priority, then my answer to "now what" would be to develop a plan for fostering lots of engagement. Identify Twitter chats I could participate in and jump into those. Start following relevant hashtags and jump into those conversations. Find questions to answer. I’d do this for 30 days and then measure again – did I achieve the goal of more traffic to my site from Twitter?

If the answer is yes, then I’ve established that there’s not only a correlation, but a causative effect between engagement and website traffic. I now have a battle plan I can move forward with.

If the answer is no, then I’ve established that there isn’t a causal link, and I need to go back into my data and dig deeper for why.

Engagement Might Not Mean Anything

The value of this analysis is that it provides us with a direction to go, working towards a meaningful goal further down our marketing operations funnel. We have to be prepared for an answer we don’t like: all the social media engagement might not mean anything if it’s not generating business results, so be prepared for that possibility.

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